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Early years providers asked to remain open, despite some school closures

By Rachel Lawler

Early years providers have been asked to remain open across all tier levels - including in areas where primary schools will be required to close.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson outlined the plans to close primary schools in areas "where infection rates are highest" in an update given to the House of Commons today.

The Department for Education (DfE) revealed its Contingency Framework for the affected areas shortly afterward.

The framework explains that early years providers - including childminders and nurseries - should remain open in the affected areas, even as primary schools are asked to close to all but vulnerable children and key worker families.

Early years providers based on school sites will "have discretion" to follow arrangements for primary schools.

The guidance also states that providers who run community activities, before or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school or childcare provision (including wraparound childcare) for children over the age of five "should only allow vulnerable children and children of critical workers to attend".

The Alliance is seeking clarity on the government's position on baby and toddler groups as a matter of urgency.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "While we note that newly-published DfE guidance confirms that childcare providers in the worst affected areas of the country are able to remain open as of next week, it beggars belief that during today’s critical statement to the House of Commons, the education secretary didn’t even bother to mention the early years sector once.

“Absolutely no information has been given as to the scientific basis for this decision, or why it has been deemed safe for nurseries and childminders to remain open, but not primary schools. This is something the education secretary could and should have taken the opportunity to provide during today’s announcement.

“Mr Williamson is Secretary of State for the whole of the education sector - including the early years, and it’s high time he started acting like it. We urge the DfE to provide a clear scientific basis for today’s decision and ensure that all childcare providers are reassured that their safety and wellbeing, and that of the children in their care, has been fully taken into consideration by the government.”